Silas Marner

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Silas Marner
Silas Marner 1.jpg
First edition title page.
AuthorGeorge Eliot
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
PublisherWilliam Blackwood and Sons
Publication date
1861

Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe is the third novel by George Eliot, published in 1861. An outwardly simple tale of a linen weaver, it is notable for its strong realism and its sophisticated treatment of a variety of issues ranging from religion to industrialisation to community.

Plot summary[edit]

The novel is set in the early years of the 19th century. Silas Marner, a weaver, is a member of a small Calvinist congregation in Lantern Yard, a slum street in Northern England. He is falsely accused of stealing the congregation's funds while watching over the very ill deacon. Two clues are given against Silas: a pocket knife, and the discovery in his own house of the bag formerly containing the money. There is the strong suggestion that Silas' best friend, William Dane, has framed him, since Silas had lent his pocket knife to William shortly before the crime was committed. Lots are drawn in the belief - shared by Silas - that God will direct the process and establish the truth. However Silas is proclaimed guilty. The woman Silas was to marry breaks their engagement and instead marries William. With his life shattered, his trust in God lost and his heart broken, Silas leaves Lantern Yard and the city for a rural area where he is unknown.

Marner travels south to the Midlands and settles near the rural village of Raveloe in Warwickshire, where he lives isolated and alone, choosing to have only minimal contact with the residents. He throws himself into his craft and comes to adore the gold coins he earns and hoards from his weaving.

One foggy night, the two bags of gold are stolen by Dunstan ("Dunsey") Cass, a dissolute younger son of Squire Cass, the town's leading landowner. Silas then sinks into a deep gloom, despite the villagers' attempts to aid him. Dunsey immediately disappears, but little is made of this by the community because he had vanished several times before.

Godfrey Cass, Dunsey's elder brother, also harbours a secret past. He is married to, but estranged from, Molly Farren, a laudanum-addicted working-class woman living in another town. This secret prevents Godfrey from marrying Nancy Lammeter, a young middle-class woman. On a winter's night, Molly tries to make her way to Squire Cass's New Year's Eve party with her two-year-old girl to announce that she is Godfrey's wife. On the way, she lies down in the snow and passes out. The child wanders away and into Silas' house. Silas follows her tracks in the snow and discovers the woman dead. When he goes to the party for help, Godfrey heads outdoors to the scene of the accident, but resolves to tell no one that Molly was his wife. Molly's death, conveniently for Godfrey and Nancy, puts an end to the marriage.

Silas keeps the child and names her Eppie, after his deceased mother and sister, both named Hephzibah. Eppie changes Silas' life completely. Silas has been robbed of his material gold, but thinks that he has it returned to him symbolically in the form of the golden-haired child. Godfrey Cass is now free to marry Nancy, but continues to conceal the fact of his previous marriage—and child—from her. However, he aids Marner in caring for Eppie with occasional financial gifts. More practical help and support in bringing up the child is provided by Dolly Winthrop, a kindly neighbour of Marner's. Dolly's help and advice assist Marner not only in bringing up Eppie, but also in integrating them into village society.

Sixteen years pass, and Eppie grows up to be the pride of the village. She has a strong bond with Silas, who through her has found a place in the rural society and a purpose in life. Meanwhile, Godfrey and Nancy mourn their own childless state, after the death of their baby. Eventually, the skeleton of Dunstan Cass—still clutching Silas' gold—is found at the bottom of the stone quarry near Silas' home, and the money is duly returned to Silas. Shocked by this revelation, and coming to the realisation of his own conscience, Godfrey confesses to Nancy that Molly was his first wife and that Eppie is his child. They offer to raise her as a gentleman's daughter, but this would mean Eppie would have to forsake living with Silas. Eppie politely but firmly refuses, saying, "I can't think o' no happiness without him."

Silas revisits Lantern Yard, but his old neighbourhood has been "swept away" in the intervening years and replaced by a large factory. No one seems to know what happened to Lantern Yard's inhabitants. However, Silas contentedly resigns himself to the fact that he will never know and now leads a happy existence among his self-made family and friends. In the end, Eppie marries a local boy she has grown up with, Dolly's son Aaron. Aaron and Eppie marry and move into Silas' house, which has been newly improved courtesy of Godfrey. Silas' actions through the years in caring for Eppie have apparently provided joy for everyone, and the extended family celebrates its happiness.

Characters[edit]

"Silas finds Eppie"
  • Silas Marner: lower class by birth, a weaver who is betrayed at Lantern Yard (site of a dissenting sect) by his treacherous friend William Dane, moves away to Raveloe (where the community is Church of England), becomes taken for a miser, as he accumulates a small fortune, only to have it stolen by Dunstan Cass. After these misfortunes, he gradually finds his happiness and virtue by the arrival of young Eppie (biological daughter of Godfrey Cass) who he raises as his adopted child.
  • Squire Cass, Lord of the Manor of Raveloe and host of the party on the night when Eppie comes into Silas's life so unexpectedly.
  • Godfrey Cass: upper class by birth but troubled by money, eldest son of the local squire, who is blackmailed by his dissolute brother Dunstan over his secret first marriage to Molly. When Molly dies, he feels relief, and escapes punishment for his betrayal and deceit, instead marrying Nancy.
  • Dunstan Cass: second son of the local squire. He blackmails his older brother, until he disappears. He steals Silas' gold after accidentally killing his older brother's horse Wildfire. Many years pass before his corpse is found in a newly drained pit.
  • Molly Farren: Godfrey's first (and secret) wife, who has a child by him; an opium addict; lower class, impoverished. She dies in the attempt to reveal to the community her relationship with Godfrey, leaving the child, Eppie, to wander into Silas' life.
  • Eppie (Hephizibah): daughter of Molly and Godfrey, who is named by and cared for by Silas after the death of her mother. Mischievous in her early years, she grows into a radiant and beautiful young girl, devoted to her adoptive father.
  • Nancy Cass (née Lammeter): Godfrey Cass' second wife, a morally and socially respectable young woman, admired by her husband but deceived by him as regards his past.
  • Priscilla Lammeter, Nancy's plain, unwed sister, who supports Nancy and their father.
  • Aaron Winthrop: son of Dolly, who marries Eppie at the end of the novel and is considered a happy match for her.
  • Dolly Winthrop: mother to Aaron, wife of Ben; godmother to Eppie. Sympathetic to Silas and offers him practical support in raising the child.
  • Ben Winthrop, wheelwright, largely invisible in the novel.
  • Mr Snell, landlord of the Rainbow Inn, Raveloe.
  • William Dane: William Dane is Silas' former best friend at Lantern Yard. At the start of the novel, William betrays Silas by framing him for theft and marrying Silas' fiancée Sarah.
  • Sarah: Silas' fiancée in Lantern Yard, who subsequently marries his treacherous friend William Dane.
  • Mr. Macey: the clerk at the local church, a tailor, very elderly by the end of the novel.
  • Solomon Macey, Mr Macey's brother, a talented violinist.
  • Mr Crackenthorpe, rector of Raveloe and a Justice of the Peace.
  • Bob Lundy, the butcher of Raveloe.
  • John Dowlas, the farrier of Raveloe.
  • Jem Rodney, a local poacher, initially suspected by Silas of stealing his money.
  • Mrs. Kimble, the sister of Squire Cass, and the doctor's wife, thus considered a double dignitary.
  • Dr. Kimble, the doctor of Raveloe, who attends when Molly is found dead.
  • Bob Cass, The Squire's youngest son.

Analysis[edit]

Lawrence Jay Dessner has drawn connections between the biographical circumstances of Eliot's life in relation to events in the novel.[1] Bruce K Martin has discussed Eliot's use of Godfrey Cass as "both parallel and foil" to Silas Marner in the structure of the novel.[2] Fred C Thomson has examined the multiple levels of the idea of alienation in the novel.[3] Joseph Wiesenfarth has noted undercurrents of myth and legend, incorporated into a 'realistic' context, along with contrasts of responsible and irresponsible behaviour in the contrasting fates of Silas Marner and the Cass brothers.[4] David Sonstroem has studied ideas of chance and Darwinian thinking in the context of the plot and character fates in the novel.[5] Susan Stewart has looked at the influence of folktales and ideology related to 'work' vs 'labour' in the novel.[6] Ian Milner has examined two overarching themes of Silas Marner's 'loss and recovery of his humanity', and of a conflict between stated moral values and the social realities juxtaposed with them.[7] Robert H Dunham has analysed the influence of the ideas and philosophy of William Wordsworth on the novel.[8] Brian Swann has examined mythic and religious undertones in the novel.[9] Jeff Nunokawa analyses ideas about physical touch, with respect to Silas Marner's handling of his gold compared to his raising of Eppie, and connects them to sexual and sensual themes.[10] Kate E Brown has discussed overarching themes of time and temporality, with respect to the interlocked stories of Godfrey Cass and Silas Marner.[11]

Adaptations[edit]

  • At least five film adaptations of Silas Marner were released during the silent film era, including the following:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dessner, Lawrence Jay (Fall 1979). "The Autobiographical Matrix of Silas Marner". Studies in the Novel. 11 (3): 251–282. JSTOR 29531981.
  2. ^ Martin, Bruce K (Fall 1972). "Similarity Within Dissimilarity: The Dual Structure of Silas Marner". Texas Studies in Literature and Language. 14 (3): 479–489. JSTOR 40754221.
  3. ^ Thomson, Fred C (June 1965). "The Theme of Alienation in Silas Marner". Nineteenth-Century Fiction. 20 (1): 69–84. JSTOR 2932493.
  4. ^ Wiesenfarth, Joseph (June 1970). "Demythologizing Silas Marner". ELH. 37 (2): 226–244. JSTOR 2872399.
  5. ^ Sonstroem, David (October 1998). "The Breaks in Silas Marner". The Journal of English and Germanic Philology. 97 (4): 545–567. JSTOR 20057796.
  6. ^ Stewart, Susan (Summer 2003). "Genres of Work: The Folktale and Silas Marner". New Literary History. 34 (3): 513–533. JSTOR 20057796.
  7. ^ Milner, Ian (Autumn 1966). "Structure and Quality in Silas Marner". Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. 6 (4): 717–729. JSTOR 449365.
  8. ^ Dunham, Robert H (Autumn 1976). "Silas Marner and the Wordsworthian Child". Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. 16 (4): 645–659. JSTOR 450280.
  9. ^ Swann, Brian (Spring 1976). "Silas Marner and the New Mythus". Criticism. 18 (2): 101–121. JSTOR 23100082.
  10. ^ Nunokawa, Jeff (Spring 1993). "The Miser's Two Bodies: Silas Marner and the Sexual Possibilities of the Commodity". Victorian Studies. 36 (3): 273–292. JSTOR 3828324.
  11. ^ Brown, Kate E (Spring 1999). "Loss, Revelry, and the Temporal Measures of Silas Marner: Performance, Regret, Recollection". NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction. 32 (2): 222–249. JSTOR 1346224.
  12. ^ "Silas Marner (1911)". IMDb.com. (Amazon). Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  13. ^ "SIlas Marner's Christmas (1912)". IMDb.com. (Amazon). Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  14. ^ "Silas Marner (1913)". IMDb.com. (Amazon). Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  15. ^ "Silas Marner (1916)". IMDb.com. (Amazon). Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  16. ^ Silas Marner (1916) remaining reels, Ned Thanhouser of the Thanhouser Film Corporation and Vimeo, retrieved June 26, 2014
  17. ^ "Silas Marner (1922)". IMDb.com. (Amazon). Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  18. ^ Illustrated London News. 18 November 1876, page 476
  19. ^ Stedman, Jane W. (1996). W. S. Gilbert, A Classic Victorian & His Theatre. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816174-3. p. 141
  20. ^ Bangaru Papa in Naati 101 Chitralu, S. V. Rama Rao, Kinnera Publications, Hyderabad, 2006, pp. 109–110
  21. ^ Silas Marner, John Joubert
  22. ^ John Joubert: composer Archived 17 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ Nagendra (1981). Premchand: an anthology. Bansal. p. 70. OCLC 8668427.
  24. ^ IMDB listing Retrieved 2015-10-17
  25. ^ Masterpiece Theater database Retrieved 2015-10-17
  26. ^ Youtube link Retrieved 2015-10-17
  27. ^ IMDB listing Retrieved 2015-10-17

External links[edit]